Monday, March 10, 2008

The Listening Heart: The Decline of Vocation II

[Number six in a series]

The last post looked at organic society as represented by one which embraces vocation; and the organized society created by modern western culture:

  • Organic societies were not based on the independence of individuals; but the interdependence of members; and

  • Organic societies were not based on the equality of their members, but their differences
This wasn't just an outgrowth of the rise of modernity - it was a requirement. Therefore, the theme of this post:
that modern western culture requires the severing of folks from vocation - and its attachment to family, tradition, religion, etc. - in order to build a culture rooted in production and conquest.
Indeed, as A. J. Conyers points out in The Listening Heart, the "reason" taught by the enlightenment wasn't reason in general [other than items in brackets by me - this completely follows Conyers]:

It is often noted that Enlightenment thinkers emphasized reason. Yet the real effect of their emphasis is almost always lost. This certainly could not mean that they emphasized reason while earlier ages neglected it, or preferred superstition and unreason: who indeed were more devoted to the arts of reason than the disciples of Aristotle in antiquity, or those who, in medieval times, submitted everything to reason in the most rigorous fashion, the schoolmen from Anselm to Aquinas and beyond? The specific way in which the Enlightenment used reason was as a replacement for the idea of vocation. One could then make reasoned choices. The true locus of personal decisions was to be found in the individual who "thinks for himself:' as Kant would put it, and who declines to depend upon the "guidance of another."
It is not without significance that Kant, like others following the same pattern, appeals to a virtue of the will, courage. For in many ways the movement of modernity has been a shift from the intellect and the affections as guiding faculties for human beings, to the will. Kant does not say, develop the skill to think for yourself. Nor does he say learn what best to love so that you may guide yourself toward what is good. Nor does he suggest that you have the courage to follow what you know is good and true. The will is placed ahead of the intellect and the love of good. He says instead, ''All that is required for enlightenment is freedom. . . ." and "Men raise themselves by and by out of backwardness if one does not purposely invent artifices to keep them down."
[An interesting contrast in this will vs. good discussion might be Matthew Yglesias' "Thinking about Prostitution"; and Joe Carter's "Prostitution and the Pollution of Moral Ecology" or PastorDan's "Eliot Spitzer Self-Immolates". None of the three mention the "elephant in the room" in regards to prostitution (and pornography) - the international trafficking in sexual slaves. I am getting to slavery in this series.]

So, what does Conyers see as the process in the modern decline of vocation:
The stages of this recession are not surprising, though the extremity in which it has manifested itself (and the real name of that extremity) is something modern people would generally reject, although they, more than any other peoples of any other age are most acquainted with it. . . .

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries brought impressive advances in technology, or-to use plainer language-in the use of implements or tools to accomplish practical tasks. This advance was so impressive and made such a remarkable impact upon society that a number of direct or indirect consequences made themselves felt.
1. Progress in technology suggested that progress was a general rule in human experience and that it was a force that operated throughout social, moral, and artistic life; that what was the rule for technology was also the rule for civilization and culture, bringing all things under the power of an unseen evolutionary hand.

2. The increased use of technology drew larger numbers of people to centers of production and commerce, giving rise to the phenomenal growth of urban living and the ready availability of manpower for industry and army, for production and conquest.

3. The labor force, the government, and the army developed along lines analogous to the machine.

4. Governments were organized for the efficient administration of large territories and the gradual yet effective opposition to barriers (including and sometimes especially the moral and religious ones) that hampered profitable enterprises. One can see this especially in the effort (beginning with Locke) to distinguish between a public and private realm, in which matters of moral and religious concern were relegated to the private, where the influence of church and family could not discourage free rein in the public realm of commercial enterprise.

[This can be seen in the battle over homeschooling. In Germany, a law passed in 1939 during the Third Reich and still in effect today makes it illegal to homeschool your children: parents are arrested and children moved under control of the state. The need of the modern state to control education in order to make us more equal and interchangeable parts for conquest and production is clear. Homeschooling in the United States, particularly in California right now, is also a "battleground issue" between those who wish to maintain the connection of their children to family, community, church, and tradition - and those that believe that the state has an interest in creating more "equal" and homogenous students.]

5. Social organization increasingly imitated the rational use of implements - of machines.

6. The social consciousness of large territories began to be formed . . . toward those urban centers of manufacture, trade, and government (growth industries all!) where the power of technology and bureaucratic organization could be felt in its full force.

This led to people no longer seeing themselves as belonging to the land

that something more or less permanent no longer undergirded, nourished, and protected them: the land to which they belonged, and that was the common environment of all-rich and poor, old and young, from birth to death-was in smaller and smaller measure the environment that determined the shape of their lives.
but to the company, the standing army, or the state:
to belong to a "company:' let us say, means that one is subject to the will of another and in some ways is sustained only by the arbitrary good will of others. It implies that one belongs in a way that is not true of a family or a church, for this "belonging" is made possible by the activity and initiative of those who are in positions of power.
In the next post, we will see what Conyers calls these folks alienated from family, place, community, church, and tradition; and now organized, like parts of a machine, for production and conquest.

No comments:

Post a Comment

How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly